Deployments are tough.
They can be very lonely and feel like they are dragging on day by day. It can also be easy to fall into a pattern and routine of not “needing” your SO. I get it! You have to hold down the fort yourself.
You are use to deciding how you spend your time, and your family’s time, on your own. Your meals seem to lax and maybe you put off doing certain chores (or self-care) because you think “What’s the point?”.
Sound familiar? It's ok!
Sometimes there is more to it. Whenever your husband/SO is deployed, do you ever have the feeling that your relationship is maybe "on a break?" *insert FRIENDS reference*. That during those months of separation everything seems to be standing still? It's hard to feel positive about where your relationship during that time.
Not the best feeling to have.
My husband and I have been together for 15 years and married for almost 11. We have been through multiple deployments, months/a year apart at a time, and never would I say that it has been easy or glamorous. However, I feel we are closer now than we were when we first were together and I am grateful.
As difficult as it is to believe, there are ways to help you two draw closer to each other, build intimacy (because that doesn't simply mean sex) and continue moving forward in your marriage even when separated by thousands of miles! Here are a few key tips I would say help the most to keep the fire alive and to feel great during a deployment!
1. Visit the Post Office Often
It may seem cheesy, but this is something your spouse will greatly appreciate! My husband has kept every single letter and card I sent him during trainings and deployments, all the way from OCS to his most recent. Writing a “love letter” is a private and intimate way to express your feelings towards your SO. Let it be your outlet. Let your SO know how much he/she means to you, how much you appreciate all he/she does and the huge sacrifices that are made.
You can also include inside jokes, old memories or funny stories that you believe would be appreciated. One of my favorite parts of hand written letters with my SO is the small drawings he put in the margins of the pages. He also draws the best pictures related to his letters. They will always be treasured and I look forward to them every time.
Sending a care package can also be a fun and exciting way to spice things up. Photos, romantic cards, trinkets reminding of memories, and other thoughtful items can help build up your relationships. It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy to make an impression.
I asked my husband to name his favorite care package item he has received from me. He told me it was this fleece blanket I made him with the logos of his favorite basketball team. That blanket cost me less than 10 dollars and a chick-flick length of time to put together, and it is STILL a favorite in this house. He knew I was thinking about him and it actually brought us closer.
2. Have a “Date Night”
Just because you aren’t physically together doesn’t mean you can’t do things together. If possible, schedule a Skype call to share a meal (breakfast for you and dinner for him?). Light a candle, pour your favorite drink and take some time to REALLY talk. If possible, make sure distractions are minimized (put the kids in bed and/or put your phone AWAY!). Imagine what it would be like if you were at a fancy restaurant and soak it all in.
When face-to-face time is not available, think about other ways you can be together without the real-time interaction. Some options could be to read the same book or maybe watch the same TV series. If possible, spend some set time (i.e. each Sunday evening) doing these things and thinking about your spouse.
I also got my husband matching journals so we could document our days when letter writing was not as easy. It’s nice to come back together at the end of deployment and go through the journals together and reminisce.
3. Practice Good Self-Care
Self-Care is a FANTASTIC way to stay feeling sexy and confident while your SO is deployed. Self-care has been a long standing practice for as long as people have been on this earth. As Aristotle put it, “all friendly feelings for others are an extension of man’s feelings for himself.”
In other words, to better show love for others, we must show love for ourselves. I think he was onto something here. This isn't just spa days and manicures either! Examples of self-care practices includes exercise, meditation, good sleep habits, letting go of negativity, and finding your tribe. Want an EASY way of giving yourself some amazing self-care during deployment? Brave Crates are the perfect option and helps that countdown to homecoming be a little less out of reach!
Overall, there are many options for self-care and it looks different to everyone. Focusing on ourselves and our care gives confidence, peace and an overall positive outlook. This translates to a "glow" and sex-appeal which we carry over into our relationship with our SO.
4. Do Some Shopping
On the back of self-care, let's chat self-love! When you FEEL good about our body and have a good positive body image, it translates to your relationships with others, especially your spouse. One easy way to boost your body love is a quick shopping trip for an updated look.
Even if finances may be tight, consider budgeting and setting aside some petty cash for some "I survived deployment" shopping for YOU. Has it been a while since you invested in some new sexy underwear, or maybe an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks? What better time than at the end of a deployment.
Although your SO will probably not care, per say, what you are wearing, that boost of body love will carry over into the time spent together during reintegration.
5. Be Independent in Adventures
There is no law that says that in order to show your commitment, you have to be 100% focused on the fact that your SO is gone. Pining is un-heathy and creates negative energy. A better use of your time would be to focus on activities that boost your mood and independence.
Even something as simple as making your favorite food (that maybe your spouse isn't a fan of) can be something you look forward to! My husband isn't a fan of BBQ Chicken Pizza so once a week, while he is gone, I make sure to get it! Yum! Some other fun things I have done while my spouse has been deployed include taking piano lessons, joining a book club, a BUNCO group, learning new recipes AND starting a blog!
So go start making your Deployment Bucket List: Go on some adventures, try something new, take trips, set dates with friends, get out of the house and try to make the most out of the time you have. Is there something you have always wanted to do but didn't think you had the time? There is no better time than during a deployment.
This independence I mentioned will only bring you and your service member closer together. You'll feel happier and more fulfilled by doing things that you love and enjoy and he will feel more confident knowing that “you’ve got this.” Nothing more attractive than a confident, happy and independent soul!
6. Keep Communication Open
This one I save for last because I want to leave you with this thought. Although you may not have as many opportunities to communicate, make sure to make those opportunities count!
Be open, honest and vulnerable with your loved one. You do not want to dwell on negativity, however, do not feel like you have to put on a brave face and not express your true feelings. Keeping communication open between you two, whether via email, letters or occasional voice-to-voice will grow your intimacy more than anything else. That type of intimacy is long lasting.
You have got this!
Deployments can be some of the hardest times in a military couple relationship; but it doesn't have to define the relationship in a negative way. Be honest with yourself and your SO, establish expectations of communication and remember why you are with that person in the first place. Your level of intimacy doesn't just have to survive a deployment: it can also THRIVE.
Hi, I'm Noralee - Mrs. Navy Mama! I'm a military wife of 10 years, mother of three little ones, writer and advocate for self-love. I am also an avid lover of southern comfort food, my planner and chocolate. I started Mrs. Navy Mama as a way to encourage other military spouses on the importance of self-care and finding their tribe, along with helpful and actionable tips and tools to dealing with the ups and downs of military life. Because loving someone in the military is hard, but totally worth it - let's make the most of it!